If you’re not a vegan, or just not prone to keeping up with funky ingredient trends, you might not have heard of “aquafaba.” Yes it sounds like something you say at the end of a Harry Potter spell, but it’s actually an ingredient prominent in vegan cooking because it can substitute for egg whites. The funny part: aquafaba is just the liquid from a can of chickpeas, aka chickpea brine. You know, that murky, thick liquid most of us are careful to drain entirely before tossing a can of chickpeas into a salad?
But it can be used in a wild variety of applications in cooking—and yes, cocktails. If you whip up chickpea brine all by itself, you get an incredibly fluffy, creamy, flavorless substitute for the egg white that creates a creamy head in classic drinks like the Pisco Sour, Clover Club and Gin Fizz. Whether you’re vegan or not, we’ve scoured the state to find a few places where aquafaba not only made the drinks list, but is being used in creative ways as part of a balanced, high-caliber craft cocktail.
Bright and Seasonal at The Winston
The Winston has not one but two cocktails with aquafaba on their menu and both drinks lean toward lighter, brighter (summer-friendly) flavors. Their “Eleven Thirty” has Ketel One Grapefruit & Rose vodkas, Lillet, peach syrup, aquafaba, lemon juice, and lavender bitters and “The Doria” is Alibi Gin, cucumber & snow pea Syrup, lime juice, and aquafaba. (Lillet, FYI, is an aromatized French aperitif with floral, stone fruit flavors.) In both drinks, the blank slate of aquafaba creates a creamy backdrop where those floral, fruity flavors can embed themselves (and act as softer counterpoint to sharper grapefruit vodka or gin).
The Winston, 72 Hudson Street, Hoboken; 201-683-6188
Smoke and Spice at The Bernards Inn
The Bernards Inn in Bernardsville is not foremost a ‘cocktail spot,’ but that doesn’t mean their cocktail menu only deserves a brief skim. If anything, it’s more like a “Come for the century-old bucolic beauty, stay for the creative, finely tuned cocktails!” situation. On the current roster of “Classic Drinks” is the La Pina Valley, which combines Gracias Adios mezcal, spicy honey-ginger syrup, pineapple, aquafaba and lemon. If you’ve never had mezcal, think tequila but smokier, a little thicker on the tongue. In fact, those tendrils of mezcal smoke are ideal to pit against the (gently) muting creaminess of the aquafaba, with flecks of spice and juicy pineapple poking around on top.
The Bernards Inn, 27 Mine Brook Road, Bernardsville; 908-766-0002
Gin & Juice and CBD at Northern Soul Bar
Northern Soul hits not just one trend, but two—with aquafaba and CBD both making an appearance in their “Gin & Juice” cocktail on the current menu. The ingredients list reads almost stark: Gin, Aperol, lemon juice, aquafaba, CBD. But some of the best drinks have the fewest ingredients, depending instead on skillful balance. Since we know the CBD itself isn’t likely to contribute much to flavor or texture, a lot depends on the brand of gin they’re using (some are more aggressively junipery, though plenty of modern craft gins revel in cucumber and soft botanicals). That plus fruity, floral bitterness of Aperol, bright lemon juice, and creamy aquafaba and this sounds like one of the more intriguing drinks we’ve seen. (And that’s before the CBD.)
Northern Soul Kitchen & Bar, 700 1st Street, Hoboken
The Mad Batter
The Mad Batter means a good time. You’re in Cape May, the scenery’s bright, drinks are flowing, architecture is (mostly) Victorian, and anywhere you go there’s a beach not too far away. You might not have realized, you can also get seriously gussied up drinks on their cocktail list. The “Mr. Fingers Fizz,” which combines Alibi Gin, pomegranate (juice), lemon juice, aquafaba, bubbles (aka ‘bubbly’), and a lemon twist. The drink actually sounds (respectably) ‘mad,’ with Mr. Fingers Alibi Gin’s mini-bouquet of spice and botanicals overlaying fleshy red pomegranate flavors and lemony bubbles, with aquafaba giving the whole thing a soft cap that both contains and preserves the aromatics. Sip greedily.
The Mad Batter, 19 Jackson Street, Cape May; 609-884-5970Click here to leave a comment